The Power of Bootstraps

Wila - Hot Springs, South Dakota
Entered on March 24, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

This I Believe

I believe in the strength of picking yourself up by the power of your own bootstraps. But I also believe in the validity of letting yourself fall. There comes a time when you are down and you just can’t get up. And it’s OK to be down… you are not necessarily out. While you are not up and fully in the moment you are healing. Sleeping 12, 13, 14 hours a day can be good… you are recharging and giving yourself time to mend.

We’ve all been there… going full speed ahead, in overdrive and out of control. Working so hard you barely have time to breath. We work through all of life’s trials and hardships. This is just what we do to survive. What I didn’t realize is that for some… myself included – there comes a time when the rule of bootstraps no longer applies. It’s called emotional collapse and it can hit when you don’t expect it.

As a child I had survived the pain of abandonment, childhood rape, brutality and beatings of NYC foster care. As an adult I overcame the trauma of being robbed at my job as an overnight auditor. I endured the viciousness of being afraid to sleep because of night terrors triggered by the memories of the multiple rapes that began haunting me in my late 30’s. I had also survived the severe bouts of depression that left me, at times, almost nonfunctional.

What I didn’t expect was my emotional crash. All I had ever known or believed in was hard work will get you through. What ultimately made me collapse was a combination of tragedies… 9/11 and another plane crash at a local airport just across the highway from my house.

For a long time after the crash I walked around in a fog – not comprehending what I had seen as reality. I was also afraid of “the real” of life that was. Things felt twisted and unsafe and for the first time in my life I was down and not able to get back up. This was when I realized that I could not get back up. It is now some years later and I am functioning better but at a limited capacity and for the first time since I crashed I have come to understand that it is alright. To be down is not necessarily to be out… I am just not out there in the ways that I used to be. I am definitely flying but on a well sheltered flight path.